In the 2030s, the air force could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle. “I don’t yet know if this is envisioned to be survivable or returnable. It may be one way,” Zacharias explained. A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.
By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, he added.
A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.
Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what Zacharias called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of decent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.
The US currently has no scheduled hypersonic flight tests. The last successful US hypersonic test was in 2013.
DARPA has funded development of the Advanced Full Range Engine which will be a reusable hypersonic engine. It will have a regular turbine engine and then a dual combined cycle to reach Mach 5+. “Instead of designing an entirely new kind of engine, we’re envisioning an inventive hybrid system that would combine and improve upon the best of off-the-shelf turbine and ramjet/scramjet technologies,” said Christopher Clay, DARPA program manager. “This won’t be the first time that ambitious engineers will attempt to combine turbine and ramjet technologies. But with recent advances in manufacturing methods, modeling, and other disciplines, we believe this potentially groundbreaking achievement may finally be within reach.”
AFRE aims to explore a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine concept, which would use a turbine engine for low-speed operations and a dual-mode ramjet—which would work efficiently whether the air flowing through it is subsonic (as in a ramjet) or supersonic (as in a scramjet)—for high-speed operations. The two components of the hybrid engine would share a common forward-facing air intake and rear-facing exhaust nozzle to release thrust.
AFRE aims to develop critical technologies and culminate in ground-based testing of a full-scale, integrated technology demonstration system. If that testing is successful, further development of the AFRE technology would require flight testing in a potential follow-on demonstration program.
China could deploy hypersonic boost and glide missile by 2020 and hypersonic powered missiles by 2025
The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its most recent annual report that the hypersonic glide vehicle program was “progressing rapidly” and that the new strike weapon could be deployed by 2020.
A powered version also is in development and could be fielded by 2025.
China has had seven successful tests of their Wu-14 / DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicles.
Russian hypersonic Zircon missiles by 2022
Russian warship Pyotr Veliky – Peter the Great – will be fitted with new-generation hypersonic 3M22 missiles in a 2019-2022 upgrade for the Russian Navy’s only operational nuclear-powered cruiser, the world’s largest nuclear-propelled military vessel that is not an aircraft carrier, a shipbuilding industry source told TASS on Friday.
“The Pyotr Veliky will start repairs in the third or fourth quarter of 2019. Repairs and upgrade are due for completion in late 2022, the ship to be equipped with Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles,” the source said.
“The missile is undergoing development testing and will enter service if it passes,” the source said, without specifying the trial schedule.
Zircon’s operating parameters are classified. But according to open sources, the new missile’s range may be up to 400 kilometers (250 miles_, flying five times faster than the speed of sound. Given its sheer speed, the Zircon will be extremely difficult to intercept with current missile defense technology.
Russia plans on a hypersonic mach 10 Yu-74 boost and glide missile by 2025
Russia is test-flying a new, hypersonic glide vehicle that follows the contrails of China’s WU-14, a delivery vehicle reportedly capable of carrying nuclear warheads at Mach 10 and less susceptible to U.S. anti-ballistic countermeasures.
Moscow has spent several years developing the new Yu-71 and YU-74 hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), which was first test-flown in February, according to this month’s Jane’s Intelligence Review. It is part of an ongoing escalated effort by the Kremlin to overcome U.S. missile defenses, known as Project 4202.
Project 4202 could turn out a limited number of glide vehicles armed with nuclear warheads by 2020, and up to 24 with new hypersonic payloads could be deployed at the Dombarovsky base between 2020 and 2025, the Intelligence Review said.
Up to 24 YU_74 hypersonic glide missiles would be carried atop a new ICBM the RS-28
Russia will deploy its new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to units in Siberia and the southern Urals when the enormous new weapon becomes operational in 2018. The massive liquid-fueled missiles will replace the existing Cold War-era R-36M2 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) ICBM—which is the largest such weapon ever built.
The Sarmat will weigh at least 100-tons and carry a 10-ton payload. That means the missile could carry as many as 15 independently targeted thermo-nuclear warheads. It has a range of at least 6,000 miles. Once it is operational, it will be the largest ICBM ever built.
News reports out of the Russian English-language media indicate that the Sarmat will be armed with Yu-74 hypersonic glide vehicles rather than (or perhaps in addition to) conventional ballistic warheads. Sputnik, citing an analytical website called Ostkraft.ru, reports that what they call a Yu-74 vehicle was flight tested from on top of an RS-18A (NATO designation SS-19) ICBM in April. The vehicle was launched from the Dombarovsky missile base and hit its target in the Kura test range in Kamchatka, the details of which remain secret. Designed to carry up to 24 nuclear-loaded Yu-74 gliders, each Sarmat ballistic missile will be able to hit any target located within a six-thousand-mile radius within one hour, Sputnik reports. Each Yu-74 glider can be equipped with a nuclear warhead, electronic warfare (EW) applications, or false target simulators.
Russia and India want to have a shortrange almost-hypersonic missile by 2020 and a mach 7+ version by 2029
- Speed of the existing BrahMos supersonic missile will be increased 4 Mach by 2020.
- Development of a prototype hypersonic BrahMos will begin in 2022
- Prototype will be flight tested started in 2024
- A mach 7+ hypersonic missile should then be fielded from 2029-2034
The future hypersonic missile was expected to have the same weight and size as the existing BrahMos missile so that it can be used with the same platforms and launchers.
The BrahMos-II is expected to have a range of 290 kilometers (180 mi; 160 nmi) and a speed of Mach 7.
Previously the hypersonic missile was expected to be ready for testing by 2017
India and Russia have agreed ‘in principle’ to export the existing mach 3 anti-ship cruise missile, BrahMos, to third countries – the UAE, Vietnam, South Africa and Chile, Praveen Pathak, spokesman for BrahMos Aerospace.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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